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Television: I love the racket Tim's fans make as he plays; PICK OF THE WEEK Wimbledon (BBC2, from tomorrow noon.) Why Sue Barker can't wait for Wimbers.

Byline: with Billy Sloan

Sports presenter Sue Barker wants armchair Wimbledon fans to get behind the best known loser in British tennis.

The blonde TV star, who hosts the BBC's coverage of the 2004 championships, said: 'I think we should applaud Tim Henman more.

'Wimbledon is so much more exciting when we've still got a British player in the second week.'

Henman is the one tennis star Scottish viewers love to hate. They get irked by his fiercely patriotic fans who cheer his every shot, while applauding his opponent's mistakes.

But former tennis star Sue is having none of it. She said: 'I get annoyed when people knock Tim because he's only made the semi-finals on four occasions at Wimbledon.

'The only match he felt got away from him was the semi against Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. He's also lost to Pete Sampras and Lleyton Hewitt the best players in the world.

'It's been a thrill to work at Wimbledon while Tim's there because we've got audiences of up to 14 million when he's played. It just goes to show what the public think of him.'

While Sue will host the BBC's live coverage, start-ing on BBC2 from noon tomorrow, John Inverdale will front the nightly highlights programmes.

Their team of experts and analyists includes former Wimbledon champs John McEnroe and Boris Becker. And their all-star commentary team features Pat Cash, Virginia Wade, John Lloyd, Ann Jones and Mark Cox. Last year, the Beeb had 1.8billion viewers tuning into their 5717 hours of coverage in 159 different countries.

It will be a busy fortnight for Sue but one she's looking forward to.

She said: 'I grew up watching Wimbledon with my family, then our garage wall became my Centre Court. It was my dream to play there and luckily I achieved it.'

Sue prepares meticulously for her two weeks in the Wimbledon hot seat.

'I do all the tennis leading up to the finals from the French Open, Queen's and Eastbourne,' she said. 'That's where I meet the players and do my research. Once get to Wimbledon I'm in the studio and can't get away.

'They are very long days but it's such an adrenalin rush it doesn't seem like a long stint.'

Sue is a former Wimbledon finalist but injury has now forced her to quit playing, even for pleasure.

She said: 'I snapped my Achilles tendon on court about four years ago and haven't played since.

'I don't miss playing because I love my job as much as did my tennis career.'

How has Wimbledon changed for today's top stars? 'It's now much more professional. We used to wander around on our own and it was all very free,' revealed Sue.

'There's a wonderful gym there now which we never had. If it rained, we sat around playing backgammon or Trivial Pursuit, trying to kill time.'

But there are three words which still send a shiver up Sue's spine 'rain stopped play'.

She said: 'Long rain delays are just dire. It's frustrating for the players and I get letters from people who have been on the waiting list for tickets for 25 years then they come on a day when it rains. It's such a shame.'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 20, 2004
Words:539
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